Following Attorney General Jeff Session’s announcement on Sept. 5 to end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, Ohio State stood firm against the decision and vowed to support all the university’s DACA recipients.
However, it is still unknown if the support will be enough for Ohio State to legally protect DACA students, also known as “Dreamers,” when the program ends March 5.
DACA is an Obama-era executive order that granted work permits, access to education and protection from deportation to undocumented immigrants who arrived while they were children. It protects those enrolled until their two-year status ends. The window to reapply for protection has already closed.
In the program’s current state of limbo, “Dreamers” are protected by the federal government and not Ohio State, according to Stacy Rastauskas, the university’s vice president of government relations.
“DACA is a protection that the federal government grants, up until this point,” Rastauskas told The Lantern Sept. 21. “So Ohio State doesn’t grant a protection to the students; DACA students obtain that status, and then they self-identify to the university.”
Undergraduate Student Government President Andrew Jackson, a fourth-year in political science and Spanish, said he would love to see the university protect “Dreamers,” but he is concerned that it could mean Ohio State will have to give up its information on DACA students.
“I’m not sure what it would look like to protect DACA students if this goes into effect and we have to effectively tell the federal government who DACA students are,” Jackson said.
However, Robert Cohen, a Columbus-based lawyer who focuses on immigration and nationality law, said he believes this might not be the case, as Ohio State does not legally have to keep track of Dreamers.
If this is true, would Ohio State technically break the law if it continues to provide resources or inhibits federal investigations? Cohen said the university must follow the law once the program ends and cannot advise people to stray from the law.
“Ohio State treats DACA students like Ohio residents and it provides whatever resources it can to assist those students.” – Robert Cohen, a Columbus-based lawyer
Ohio State’s student legal services did not initially respond to The Lantern’s request for comment on the university’s legal obligations to protect its DACA students and passed on the questions to Ohio State spokesman Ben Johnson.
Johnson said legal affairs are not doing interviews on the subject and referred to President Michael Drake’s comments supporting DACA on Aug. 31.
With an uncertain legal future, Ohio State has made plans to do what it can for its DACA students.
Cohen said Ohio State’s actions have been among the best so far.
One of Ohio State’s resources includes lobbying Congress to promote new legislation for protecting “Dreamers” once the program ends.
University leaders, including Drake, Provost Bruce McPheron, deans of colleges and student leaders, will meet with Ohio representatives to ask for a congressional fix, Rastauskas said.
“What we are doing is advocating for Congress to not wait until March 5 to address this issue, but continue to find a protection for this particular group of individuals who, by no inclination of their own, came to this country and are every much as a piece of our community as those who were born in the United States,” she said.
The lobbying dates have not been yet to be set, but Ohio State will join other higher education institutions during this week and send DACA stories to representatives on Capitol Hill, Jackson said.
“Ohio State treats DACA students like Ohio residents and it provides whatever resources it can to assist those students,” Cohen said.
Another on-campus resource is DACA liaison Bowen Marshall, who works with DACA students and educates them on their rights as undocumented students. The information for Marshall has been displayed on the buckeyelink homepage since the September announcement.
Future protection for DACA recipients rests in the hands of Congress — or, if it doesn’t arrive on a legislative solution, it might fall on Ohio State to continue its protection. As of now, the answers remain unclear.